Edition 1 The concept of celebration in Quran by Farouk A. Peru
Ramadan: fast of the body, feast of the soul Editorial by Stéphanie Roy
As Eid draws near, it seems fitting that we write about the concept of ‘celebration’ in Islam. Islam is not seen as a ‘fun faith’ by many due to the overload of media images which portray Muslims as an angry lot, constantly enraged by various machinations (mostly by the West and Israel). It is not easy to see ‘happy go lucky’ when the media images of Muslims see them burning down embassies and carrying supremacist placards. Just google ‘Islamic rage boy’ and have a look. You’ll be hard pressed to see this guy as good company. Media portrayal of course, and a biased one at that, is very successful in generating the desired response – Islamophobia. And what about the Qur’an? The Qur’an, in my reading, is a very universalist book. It does not have a set celebration even for Muslims. Not even for Ramadhan. This doesn’t make any celebration forbidden though. Chapter 22 Verse 67 tells us to respect the fact the every ummah has its own rites and rituals (manasik) and that we are not to interfere with them. The Qur’an rather looks at life differently. It does not set aside a special day for celebrations perhaps because celebration is an integral part of everyday life. The beginning aya of the Quran itself, it can be argued, is one of celebration. The aya, Alhamdu lillahi rabb al-alameen (The praise is for Allah lord of the worlds) is known to all Muslims as they recite it in their prayers a number of times a day. This statement is also shortened to simply Alhamdu lillah and used to express thankfulness. The real weight of this statement, however, can be discerned from its usage in the Quran itself. A notable example would be in the story of Nuh in Chapter 23 Verse 28 which shows that upon being saved from the flood, Allah instructs Nuh to say Alhamdu lillah. The intensity of this situation can easily be felt by putting oneself in Nuh’s place. One must surely be awash with joy, relief and thankfulness after being delivered. That is the experience of Alhamdu lillah. Another notable example is the utterance or perhaps even exclamation when those who have been righteous have been delivered into the garden in Chapter 7 Verse 43. Once again we can see the extraordinary nature of the event which
When I first discovered Islam three years ago, it was through Ramadan. It was enlightening for me. I discovered the power of my own body to survive without food or water during day light, to combat the need to sleep in order to remain active and even to gain weight under such conditions – that last part did not impress me much. Through the process of fasting, my body amazed me, the human body amazed me. I can’t imagine the perfection of the human body and the universe as a coincidence; I cannot. That is one of the reasons I have always believed in a higher power, I did not necessarily approach or worship this power via a specific doctrine or religion, but I believed. Through the years, I continued learning about Islam and about God and about the various aspects of the faith, but Ramadan was a special time to refocus on myself and on the true source of my belief: the fact that my body and mind could withstand anything. I may be fasting with my body but my soul was feasting on the wonders of the creation. This Ramadan, I pronounced my Shahadah, making a “real” Muslim of me. This has turned a few family members and friends against me or put a drift between us. This has been particularly difficult period for me emotionally and physically. But here I stand, after 30 days of fasting, still a Muslim, still a believer, still amazed at what I have withstood and overcome during this difficult time. During this heartache, my body fast and, for the first time, my soul fast as well: it fast from the negativity, letting in only what it could handle, and feasted on the positivity, the love and kindness of those who support me. This Eid, I celebrate the end of Ramadan, the replenishment of my heart and soul against the fast of my body. I celebrate having kept strong through it all and moving forward as a stronger, and perhaps better, believer and Muslim. I celebrate finding like-minded and welcoming people from within my circle of friends whom were but acquaintances before. I celebrate another year of privilege where food, water, shelter and spiritual guidance will not lack, God willing. And last but not least, I celebrate the great minds who have contributed to this first edition of Open Interpretation. May all the authors and readers, find in their words reasons to celebrate. A blessed Eid to all!
Edition 1 calls for this special exclamation. Alhamdu lillah is an experience and we are encouraged to remind ourselves of this experience on a daily basis. Another concept which conveys the notion of celebration is shukr or thankfulness or gratefulness. The weight of this concept can be understood be from its opposite which is kufr or concealment as evident from Chapter 2 Verse 152. Muslims fear kufr because it is the undoing of their faith. It is therefore paramount for them to be grateful in all levels of their being. Every experience should be thanked as it helps us grow in some way. Shukr should also be expressed to people, not just to Allah. Chapter 31 Verse 14 tells us to be grateful to Allah and to our parents. It is very interesting that shukr be expressed both to Allah and to our parents. Perhaps it is by showing gratefulness to our parents, we are showing gratefulness to Allah himself?
Another thing one should be grateful for – perhaps worth remembering in the spirit of Ramadhan – is the revelation one receives due to living in abstinence. Chapter 2 Verse 185 calls the coming of revelation as guidance in one’s own life as something to be grateful for. Therefore, this positive feeling is linked with our connection to Allah himself. From my reading of the Qur’an, it seems evident that although Muslims lack a specific divinely mandated celebration, they are free to join in any kind of celebration people have. More importantly however, is the need to celebrate life on a daily basis. We are to be in a state of hamd and shukr as much as we can in order to suck the marrow out of life, as it were. It is the attitude we need to live life to the full.
On Celebration By Jenece Christine Selma Gerber I am a seeker, familiar although not completely comfortable with the feeling of incompleteness, the need to wander and strive for understanding and wholeness. My path has shown me treasures revealed in the context of some of the world’s “Great” religions and in some of the most esoteric theories and disciplines. I have longed, prayed for “home” and have ironically found it as my wandering path. This is the path of continual self-appraisal, of allowing God to subject my heart and spirit to the purifying fires. Looking retrospectively at my life thus far, I see what has fallen away and what has remained – which corners are still cluttered and which truths have proven consistent. It is frightening to give over to God all my beliefs, all that I have been taught, all I wish to be true…over and over again. But continually the truths are reborn, rise Phoenix-like, Christ-like, from the ashes and decay of human frailty, scheming, and desire. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). In due time, the mystic words of Mevlana Jalaludin Rumi slowly pushed me closer and ever closer to the exploration of Islam. Finally my resistance and skewed notions of Islam melted away and I was left with the Truth: Muhammad (saws) was a prophet of the one true God. Perhaps in my seeking Truth, I did not fully comprehend that Truth is not comfortable. What does it mean to know you are Muslim? How does this affect daily life and internal perspectives? Does it change who you are, right now? Does Islam uphold progressive modalities? For me, the realization that I was Muslim did not also mean a realization that I was NOT _________ . I woke up inside Islam – I was already there. There was no change, no movement, no denunciation categorically required. But. Part of the continual search for Truth and Home is also a longing for real community. As I reached out to the local Muslim community I felt acceptance and welcome accompanied by the external push to change some of my ways of being, dressing, speaking, walking, and even my profession as a musician. I felt intrinsically and unconditionally accepted by God yet pressure to conform – in the name of
Edition 1 God – from many of my Muslim brothers and sisters. For a time I tried to harmonize the Truth in my heart with the external “education” I was receiving – I tried to find the balance where all truths could live. Eventually I found that there can only be, for me, one Truth – the Truth as revealed in my heart. No holy words or stories or cultural norms can have any power or Truth unless they are already written upon my heart. I want to celebrate every day with all seekers, lovers, believers in that one same Truth that sings in my heart and encourages me ever onward. Yet because I cannot easily fit myself into one acknowledged path, I celebrate on the outskirts. My spirit cries to sing in joy and ecstasy with my brothers and sisters and yet in the masjid I am to remain unseen, unheard in the shadows. In the masjid my free words and sounds of ecstatic love of Truth and devotion to God’s leading become muted and ground underfoot. There I am only accepted – by the women – if I recite correctly, know the right hadiths, wear the right clothing, rally against the wrong beliefs. And there I am categorically ignored by the men. There, there is no room for revelation, for the Truth shining in a child’s eyes and simple words. There, there is no celebration for me. There is only retrofitting and squashing of my personal jihad into a formulaic pattern wherein one must study for years, speak Arabic, wear the right clothing, say the right things at the right time, commit to a sect…in order to have anything to add to the religious discourse. Through Ramadan and approaching Eid, my heart cries for the community I don’t have, as it simultaneously struggles to envision just what such a community might look like. The majority of my real community is a “virtual” presence in my life; a presence for which I am sincerely grateful even when I find it less than fulfilling. Perhaps for us all, the challenge of this life is to stay focused on the ever-revealing Truth: to celebrate first within the heart. For me it is thus. And: to believe that someday, just as I woke up in Islam, I may wake up in the midst of the most glorious and true celebration. Salaams and blessings to you all –
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Published on Aug 20, 2012
Open Interpretation is a newletter targetted at Progressive Muslims worldwide. Articles: - Ramadan: fast of the body, feast of the soul by S...